This trip began in May of 2015 when Missionary Flights purchased a sad-looking turbine DC-3 that was sitting in a hangar at Lanseria International Airport in South Africa. It had been moved between various hangars at the airport for the previous 10 years. The plane had no engines or propellers. It had no radios or navigation equipment. It had wings but they were disconnected from the airplane and were sitting on the ground next to it.
We knew getting the plane to Florida was going to take a while. We didn’t expect it to take this long though. Here’s a highlight of some of the delays.
Engines - The engines for this airplane aren’t the most common and can often be difficult to find. We managed to purchase two really good engines with not a lot of time on them. The cost of these two engines was close to $900,000. After buying the engines, the plan was to ship them to South Africa for installation. However, the South African government wanted to charge a 14% tax on them - that’s $126,000. MFI then had some decisions to make - do we pay the tax? Do we disassemble the airplane and ship it home on a boat? Do we negotiate? After many discussions, the government agreed to a much lower tax - so the engines were shipped and installed.
Propellers - Propellers for this airplane can also be difficult to find. The propellers that came with the airplane were not completely airworthy. Parts of the two propellers were combined to make one airworthy prop. Some MFI staff then had to drive to Michigan to remove an airworthy propeller from another turbine DC-3. And even after doing that, a couple more blades were needed.
General delays - After the engines and propellers were installed, the engines were run and some difficult electrical issues were discovered. These combined with South African holidays pushed the trip further into 2017.
The plane before departing in Cape Verde, Africa.